Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, Minister for Youth and Sports
Telecom operators in Ghana are changing the face of sports in the country, since the liberalisation of the telecom sector in the 1990s.
Through their sponsorship of the Ghana premier league some few years ago, the issue of financial challenges which used to characterise the country?s annual football league became a thing of the past.
The telcos? sponsorships of the local league have attracted companies from other sectors of the economy to sign sponsorship deals with the Premier League Board (PLB), organisers of the premier league competition for teams in the country.
In 2008, the PLB clinched a sponsorship deal for that year?s premiership with a GH?1.5million package from MTN Ghana, the country?s telecom industry giant.
The three-year package, according to parties in the deal made available to the clubs GH?1million each year, with GH?500,000 worth of the company?s products.
MTN rescued the premiership from troubled financial waters that year, as it was heading off without sponsorship for the first time in a decade.
That year, MTN snatched the sponsorship package from another telecom giant, Globacom (Glo), which had proposed a whopping GHc3million to support the premiership at the time, when it (Glo) was yet to commence operations in Ghana. The Glo deal was abrogated because of abnormal demands.
Sharing his thoughts on telcos? contributions to the development of sports in Ghana, a seasoned Broadcast Journalists at Joy FM, Benedict Owusu, stressed that the telcos, in particularly MTN Ghana, has contributed a lot to sports in the country.
?You can also talk of the MTN FA Cup competition which the telecom network has been supporting, since the rebirth of the competition some few years ago.?
Beside these, the Metro TV and MTN Soccer Academy, the country?s first soccer academy reality TV show, which was introduced in 2007, has since then unearthed many young sporting talents for the country.
One of the most successful players of the academy, Mr. Owusu mentioned, is Gideon Baah, a former Asante Kotoko player who now plies his trade in Helsinki, Finland.
The MTN Soccer Academy, which finished its 6th edition in 2015 proffered the players the opportunity to undertake intense physical and skills training, mentoring, aptitude and personal development courses.
?We are here to give the housemates nothing but the most comprehensive training session which would make them better and fit for their chosen careers.? Ibrahim Sunday, then Head of the academy technical team said.
Additionally, MTN was also the lead sponsor of the 2008 Africa Nation?s Cup hosted by Ghana, which it failed to win after years of African cup drought.
Furthermore, Mr. Owusu told African Eye News.com in an interview that: ?For Airtel Ghana, it has the Airtel Rising Star which is another form of unearthing talents for our junior national teams, such as the Black Starlets and the Black Maidens?.
The Airtel Rising Stars is a youth football initiative undertaken by Airtel Africa. The programme, launched in 2011, is a soccer talent programme aimed at focusing on identifying and nurturing budding soccer talents from the grassroots onto the international stage.
The programme targets both boys and girls between the ages of 13 to 17 years. The boys and girls are encouraged to form teams and register at selected locations, including Airtel shops, where they are then entered into the tournament on qualification.
The competition was launched for 15 African countries. The Airtel Rising Stars runs in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Zambia among others.
Since 2011, each of the countries produced top boys winning team and a top girls winning team (except in Niger and Madagascar which had boys teams only). In addition to this, each country selected, throughout the tournament, top 3 to 6 players who proceeded to attend a 1 week football clinic by professional football coaching staff.
In each county, the Airtel country office partners with local football federations / governing bodies to work out the tournament structure. They either adopt a league format or a tournament format, depending on the structure and depth of football in the country.
In all, Mr. Owusu stated: ?These are some of the things that MTN, Airtel and others are doing to help change the face of the country?s sports?.
The Corporate Services Executive of MTN, Mrs. Cynthia Lumor explained to members of Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA) at a recent meeting that the telcos have been sponsoring football and other sporting disciplines because they are the passion of the nation.
Source: African Eye News.com